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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know I've read it somewhere before, but I forgot what I read and where I read it... So if it was here, please direct me to it, because I couldnt find it.

I play in a few coverbands varying "folk" to Party band to a Caro Emerald coverband..

It's a question I hear regularly from guitarists, drummers and/or singers: Why do you need sheet music?
I only have a few vague feelings why but I cant put my finger on it.:

some of these vague ideas:
1: It would be like a guitarists having to play a solo through a whole song and do that 3 sets long?
2: we don't have a "fixed place" in the music we balance between melody and support and sometimes even a counter melody (probably not the correct english term for those last 2 but I hope you
understand)
3: most guitar parts have fixed chords for chorus and verse (maybe a bridge or 2) and the wind instruments mostly have different notes / rythms to ensure a proper build of tension in the song?

these are just my guesses, has anyone have a better explanation or better yet a more simple explanation?
 

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It's a question I hear regularly from guitarists, drummers and/or singers: Why do you need sheet music?
The answer is simple. It's because you don't know the tunes and/or lack confidence. This is no knock on you, because many players need sheet music; just seems less so for rock. Deep down, you just might find that you do truly know the tunes. The only way you'll realize it however, is to leave the sheet music at home.
 

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I agree, it's best to not need sheet music. Especially if you are playing in cover bands.

Learning horn parts becomes very easy once you start to understand the harmony and form of the songs. I have occasionally had to learn a whole set with only a couple of days notice, in which case I might make a few jottings for the set on a piece of paper which I hide down on a wedge. Not only does it look bad for horn players to have a music stand stuck in front of them all night, but very often you just don't play as well, and certainly you can't get into the swing of performing on stage so well - ie engaging the audience, smiling, clapping dancing etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I agree, it's best to not need sheet music. Especially if you are playing in cover bands.

Learning horn parts becomes very easy once you start to understand the harmony and form of the songs. I have occasionally had to learn a whole set with only a couple of days notice, in which case I might make a few jottings for the set on a piece of paper which I hide down on a wedge. Not only does it look bad for horn players to have a music stand stuck in front of them all night, but very often you just don't play as well, and certainly you can't get into the swing of performing on stage so well - ie engaging the audience, smiling, clapping dancing etc.
I dont know how to understand the harmony and form, I've had theory but not that much (at least what I can remember)... as for the playing as well as I could part.. probably so yes. Then Why does everybody in for example the London Philharmonic play by sheet music, and other smaller classical / popular music windbands.As for me I wouldn`t know where to find the time to play all those parts so often that I can play them by head.

The answer is simple. It's because you don't know the tunes and/or lack confidence. This is no knock on you, because many players need sheet music; just seems less so for rock. Deep down, you just might find that you do truly know the tunes. The only way you'll realize it however, is to leave the sheet music at home.
well, I know the tunes, some of `m everybody knows ( I'm so excited, Son of a Preacher man etc. ) And I couldnt see myself doing all those parts from the top of my head, we also play a lot of medleys with key changes from 3 flats to 7 sharps.

I only know 1 band in my/our genres with 2 trumpeters who play their parts by head, and from experience they are easily get lost if there`s a miss, or something off in someone else`s playing. Those are also the only 2 people I've seen doing it. (and they music that`s a lot easier than ours)

So it`s maybe the best thing to do, but I hardly see anyone doing it. Is it so much harder then guitar or drums?
 

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well, I know the tunes, some of `m everybody knows ( I'm so excited, Son of a Preacher man etc. )
I agree that is a tricky one, as (if I remember correctly) the second verse is a different length to the first verse. Or second chorus different to the first.
 

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Is it so much harder then guitar or drums?
No. The guitarist needs to know the song form and chord changes, as well as the melody of the head (if there is a head). You need to know the same things in order to play without sheet music, or to improvise a solo. Playing rock music or blues or jazz is not the same thing as playing symphonic music, so that's not a valid comparison.

Believe it or not, you will play much better when you know the tunes well enough to play them without reading the notes off a page. And if you are going to play a solo, you'll need to know the harmony of the song, simple as that. It is not as difficult as you might think to learn all the horn parts for a large number of tunes. You have to LEARN them by practicing and internalizing the music to the point you don't have to think about it.

A lot of this comes down to learning the basics first. Do you know all your major scales (the 12 keys), major, minor, and dominant chords, and typical changes (12 bar blues, etc)? If not it's time to get to work. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but it's reality. And MOST importantly, train your ear so you can hear what is going on and play at least to some extent using your ears. Best way to do this is to listen to the recordings of the tunes you are playing and play along, picking up the horn parts and melody by ear.

I guess what I'm saying is don't try to explain why you need sheet music. There are too many good reasons why you don't need it and should get away from it, if you are playing pop music, jazz, rock, or blues!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
No. The guitarist needs to know the song form and chord changes, as well as the melody of the head (if there is a head). You need to know the same things in order to play without sheet music, or to improvise a solo. Playing rock music or blues or jazz is not the same thing as playing symphonic music, so that's not a valid comparison.

Believe it or not, you will play much better when you know the tunes well enough to play them without reading the notes off a page. And if you are going to play a solo, you'll need to know the harmony of the song, simple as that. It is not as difficult as you might think to learn all the horn parts for a large number of tunes. You have to LEARN them by practicing and internalizing the music to the point you don't have to think about it.

A lot of this comes down to learning the basics first. Do you know all your major scales (the 12 keys), major, minor, and dominant chords, and typical changes (12 bar blues, etc)? If not it's time to get to work. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but it's reality. And MOST importantly, train your ear so you can hear what is going on and play at least to some extent using your ears. Best way to do this is to listen to the recordings of the tunes you are playing and play along, picking up the horn parts and melody by ear.

I guess what I'm saying is don't try to explain why you need sheet music. There are too many good reasons why you don't need it and should get away from it, if you are playing pop music, jazz, rock, or blues!
I dont now the scales, and frankly I havent got the time to work on it, I'm still an engineering student, and the time Içe got I spend on learning or practicing music for those coverbands or the windband i'm in... But I can play by ear, not allways flawless the first time. But I hear what notes are not to be played, and I can and have build solos from that..

But thank you for the advice, I'll keep it in mind and perhaps in the future I will be able to put the sheet music away, maybe I'll start with my solo's, now and the rest later on..
 

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The answer is simple. It's because you don't know the tunes and/or lack confidence. This is no knock on you, because many players need sheet music; just seems less so for rock. Deep down, you just might find that you do truly know the tunes. The only way you'll realize it however, is to leave the sheet music at home.
'Fer fooook sake....no musician can memorize everything. It has little to do with confidence at all; our brain storage is finite.

Is it possible for one to 'know' a tune w/o having it memorized ?

I'd say so....

The answer to that question is simple: "because a musician cannot memorize everything....and there's more to memorizing a lead sheet than just remembering a chord progression".

And yes....there is a bit more to it for a lead player than for a drummer or guitarist or bassist. Take it from a guy who plays bass.

Nothing wrong with having a chart in front of you, really. It isn't necessarily a crutch or an impedance....
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
And yes....there is a bit more to it for a lead player than for a drummer or guitarist or bassist. Take it from a guy who plays bass.

Nothing wrong with having a chart in front of you, really. It isn't necessarily a crutch or an impedance....
what is it that makes it harder than drum, guitar or bass? Leaving the way you learn the instrument out of it...
 

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I get sick when i hear that anybody thinks it is awkward to use sheet music on stage. I play all saxes, clarinet and flute and i regularly switch between the instruments in concerts. I work with different singers who sing the tunes in different keys, with different arrangements and the same tunes with different chords. The repertoire is up to 8 hours. I would need to know every song in every key but still it wouldn't solve the problem with the same tunes in different arrangements and with different chords.
It simply is not possible for me to get all this in my head and also write arrangements, do the booking, the marketing, the bookkeeping and practise all instruments. It is a question of time and the lack of efficient cloning technology.
And then i remember the last concert where we played with a new pianist (great player) who tried to play a lot of tunes out of his head (we had no time for more than one rehearsel) and by doing this he butchered the arrangments and was playing the wrong chords (the chords he knew to the tunes but not the ones we decided to use).
 

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I get sick when i hear that anybody thinks it is awkward to use sheet music on stage.
Sorry, I didn't mean to say that it should apply across the board. It's totally related to context. If the band is doing 8 hour sets, that's a different kettle of fish. But if the band is doing a regular set, and wants to put on even a basic attempt at a stage performance then music stands IMO are a hindrance to "performance".

I'd say in many of such cases it's something good to work towards, as opposed to being compulsory from the start. But I do know plenty of bands that wouldn't employ you if it meant you reading on stage so the ability to quickly learn tunes has opened up work opportunities for me.
 

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true though the A# en B# cause a lot of trouble while reading.. ( the first few times...)
And that is one of the problems you can dispense with, once you learn to memorize tunes and play by ear.

However, I do think I understand why you are using sheet music. In order to play by ear, MOST people (maybe not all) need to know the harmony underlying the music: chords, scales, chord progressions, song form, etc. By knowing that, and being able to hear it in your head, you can make certain predictions about note choices, what chord tones to target, etc. Many tunes are written on the same, or similar, chord changes, so knowing how the chords function in say, a 12-bar blues or rhythm changes, and also knowing the various song forms (AABA, AAB, etc), you will have a much easier time learning and memorizing tunes. You'll be able to recognize a given progression in many cases. So all you need to know is the key center and go from there.

Not knowing your scales, chords, and other basics, you will have a very difficult time playing by ear (unless you are one of the very few with a highly 'gifted ear'), and so you may have little choice but to use sheet music.

Going back to Jaye's and florian's points, I'm not saying there are NO situations where you'd want sheet music or a chart. Obviously in a big band situation or when subbing in a band with lots of intricate parts that you don't know, you'd need charts. But if you're playing in a small combo on a R&R, jazz, or blues gig, where you know the genre, I think you're better off learning to play by ear. Or maybe I should say I'm better off. We all tend to speak from our own perspective.
 

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B# cause a lot of trouble while reading..
If you're not reading, it's a C, which is easy-peasy. What JL states about training your ear is most important. These are all songs you've heard before, right? Rather than having the music tell you what to do, you need to make the songs your own. When I first started playing rock and roll, the keys were daunting at first. But there was no music. I knew the tunes in my head and with ear training was able to just play along. That way I could sit in with rock groups at any time. A good way to get started in doing this would be to put on a CD at home with the type of music you play. Listen, then play along... with no sheet music of course. I know so many players who are completely dependent upon sheet music that it (as Pete has pointed out) has limited their opportunities. I really believe that deep down you know more inside your head than you may realize. Small steps though. At first try playing along with music at home, and then gradually limit what you have in front of you during gigs.

I'll be honest with you. On certain jazz gigs I may have a book with me... but it's a crutch and I realize it; and I always perform better (and look better) when I don't have to bring it along.
 

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Scales and all that are easier when you're not stuck with printed music. The only reason I find some scales to be "difficult" is because I'm looking at it on paper and am having to process all the extra sharps and flats.

Meanwhile, if I just play through the scale and arpeggios a few times before practicing (to become a bit more familiar with the scale) it's just like playing any other scale. In fact, I have an easier time with some more "difficult" scales like F# and B (E and A concert) purely because my band plays in them a lot.

The point is, step away from the music and you'll see how much better you'll play. You'll also find all those "difficult" scales are just more notes to play, no different the playing a C major scale. I almost never practice things like scales with printed music, all it does is force bad habits like thinking some scales are "difficult" because they have more sharps or flats, or not being truly familiar with them as you always end up playing them in the same order. For a while, the only way I could play an F# major scale was if I had just played the B major scale before it...because that's how I always did it.
 

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I spent 30 years playing covers, most of the time with the same group of players ... never had a sheet of music in front of me ... you have to hear things in your head and be able to apply them to your fingers ... In the past I use to play counterpoint to vocalists, or echo them ...whatever I FELT the tune needed with Nary a complaint ... the most immediate concern is to ensure you are not stepping all over the vocalist with whatever you are doing...at times, silence is more ...then when your solo comes, it has to come to your fingers ... if it is the melody, most melodies are very scaler, with the largest jump being a third ...however, the more interesting melodies (especially some of the classics and standards and Christmas tunes!! ) do have more interesting intervals, which I learn and memorize and these are are my "road map" when i am playing out.
Of course, When i use to play union book jobs, those were always with music on the stand ..
 

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what is it that makes it harder than drum, guitar or bass? Leaving the way you learn the instrument out of it...
I would submit that playing without sheet music on sax (or any wind instrument) is NOT harder than it is on guitar, or keyboard. I think it's easier. As others have said, you can play along using your ear. You can get through a song and sound fine if your dont' know the chord progression or form 100% (although you'll probably sound better if you do), whereas if the guitar player or keyboard player plays a wrong chord at the wrong time, or doesn't go to the bridge or whatever, if can cause a bigger problem for the band.

Example: You're at a jam session, or sitting in with someone. Someone calls up a tune (not a 12-bar blues chord progression). If you don't know it, you can still join in. If the guitar player doesn't know it, what's he/she going to do?

This isn't a "beat-down" on you. It's something that some musicians do better than others, and something I think we all want to get better at. I agree with a previous poster that the best way to practice this is to play a CD of a song you know, maybe one that your band plays, and just play along by ear. And spend some of your regular practice time practicing scales and chords - focusing on the scales and chords of the songs you're trying to play by ear with the CD. Or just decide that you always want to only play from sheet music.

Edit: I left out drums. I think it's obvious that there are an entirely different set of challenges.
 

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If it would have something to do with “knowing the tunes” or “knowing the scales”; why do horn sections in well known bands still use sheet music? (E.g.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76kd984x5bU (not the lady!), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9vZt0KDstI , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7tFeVLNH5E and many more).
Are the horn players less musicians? I don't think so! For me it differs when being a solitaire horn player in a band. In that case I do not use sheet paper. When playing in a horn section, mostly one does not simply play tunes but more or less complex schemes. A problem is often to know which voice to play (is knowledge of harmonies in this case a disadvantage?:)). I'm not staring at the sheets but have quick views to see what is coming next (and concentrate further on the ladies dancing). I also do not see a difference with playing symphonic music in respect to using sheet music.
 
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